One day when Anil returned from the shop, he found his father lying on the bed. He shook him, shouted expletives at him but to no avail. It was just him and his father at their house. His mother had died long ago of general neglect. Nobody really expected her to live. She was spiteful in her last years and died a bitter neglected death. All the relatives came running after hearing about the death. Death was important to them. Nothing else could pull them to the town but death. Funerals were a great time to show that one cared deeply and they lasted shorter too, unlike the long bedridden phase where the dying needed to be cared for.
“You cared for him with so much dedication,” Sunil said purposefully. Anil took the compliment with a lowered head.
“My father has always sung praises for you,” Sunil went on. Anil raised his head a bit.
“When he falls sick, you must come and care for him,” Sunil had arrived at the point. Anil nodded politely. He did not know what to say.
Sunil was seen discussing his plans to move to the city with our relatives. His father overhead him and was mortified but did not show it. Soon enough, he took to the bed. There is something indistinguishable about all old, bedridden men and women–they all have sunken cheeks, gasping for breath, and all of them undergo various stages of pain. Anil’s uncle had already crossed the first two stages of vocal resistance and resentment. During the resistance phase, he would try to fight everyone who would try to help him. He would think that the pain was there because people were trying to make him sit up and eat or drink. He just wanted to lie down and let the pain pass. Bedsores arrived in this stage. Then came the stage of resentment which was mostly directed toward God. He would raise his hands and ask to be picked up by God. God was too busy picking other stuff up maybe so his pleas went unheeded. He entered the phase of resignation where he would just grimace as people tried to wash or clean him.
Anil came to visit his uncle. He saw him lying in his own faeces. Sunil was busy with some paperwork and Sunil’s wife was justifiably disgusted by the smell. She did not share the genetics with the dying old man and that is why his urine and faeces were particularly pungent to her. Hesitatingly, Anil offered to clean up the bed and Sunil pretended to hesitate for a bit. He sat in deep thought for a while contemplating the losses that will be incurred if he stopped doing his paperwork for a few minutes. He decided to allow Anil to clean his father’s bed.
Anil asked for a bucket of warm water and a piece of cloth. They were brought to him in an unsual hurry by Sunil’s wife. As Anil began cleaning, Sunil and his wife watched from the window with eyes that glittered with hope, positivity and dreams of a better future. The next morning, Sunil left with his wife for the city leaving his father with Anil. He said it was just a one day trip to a temple. He really needed to pray to this particular God in this particular temple for his father to get well. Anil was used to caring for the ailing ones so he stayed. Sunil returned after three days. It was not his fault–the rains had been torrential and all the ways to their town had been blocked. Anil said he need to leave now because of his shop but Sunil patted his back and said he would cover his losses. He said that the improvement in his father’s health was remarkable and it was only because Anil had cared for him, and that Anil should stay for one more week. Anil thought it wasn’t a bad deal if he got to save someone’s life. He himself hadn’t observed any improvements to which Sunil reasoned that maybe it was because he was spending more time with the patient. A month passed and Sunil’s father died too. Everyone came and patted Anil on his back. He had earned many a blessing. The funeral was conducted. Anil was sitting with Sunil and everyone was extending their heartfelt condolences. Amit, Anil’s father’s sister’s son came up to Anil and held him by the shoulder. He said he couldn’t begin to express how deeply moved he was by Anil’s altruism. He then began to express how deeply moved he was. Anil slowly stood up and walked out of Sunil’s house. He walked slowly to the bus stand, took a bus and reached his home.
He looked at himself in the mirror–he had gone paler. He opened his shop the next day and stopped taking calls from his cousins. He did go on important occassions like birthdays, anniversaries and funerals. He got married and had kids. His kids moved to bigger cities as years passed. One day, as a consequence of natural course of things, he fell ill and couldn’t get up from his bed. His wife called the kids and everyone came one by one. Everyone had important jobs so they left one by one.
“The boss needs the report next week.”
“There is audit at my workplace.”
“Oh, there is audit at my place too.”
The audit seemed like a mysterious creature which forbade kids from tending to their ailing fathers. A dying Anil closed his eyes and imagined the audit to be a dragon that breathed fire in the path of anyone who wanted to cross the thresholds of the city and come to the small town to care for him.
The news reached Sunil’s household. Sunil’s son was all grown up and was still struggling to find a job. The shop he was running wasn’t doing very well. Sunil, after some deep thought, ordered his son to go see Anil. He gladly went and began tending to the dying uncle.
The night he reached his uncle’s place, his cousins were sitting together and discussing the problems they were facing.
“The biggest problem is that there are no good nurses here in this small town,” said Anil’s eldest son.
“The domestic helps here do not do their work honestly. It is so difficult to trust people here,” added the middle one.
“There are no big hospitals here,” the youngest one threw his hands. Sunil’s son tried to think of a problem to add to the list his cousins were making. He couldn’t think of one.
One night as Sunil’s son was cleaning Anil’s bed, he looked lovingly at him and asked his name. His nephew was knew that old men were often forgetful so he reminded him how they were related, “My father’s father and your father’s father were brothers,” he said with an innocent smile. Anil looked at him as if he was looking at Mother Teresa.